Something of a return to the House of Horrors this – both for Carlo Ancelotti and Bayern.
It was here at the Calderón where, effectively, the Italian’s reign as Real Madrid manager was definitively ended – something he took stoically but regretted hugely.
Ancelotti’s troops were infamously routed, 4-0, by a rampant Atleti that weekend of Cristiano Ronaldo’s birthday back in February last year.
He lamented at the time:
It’s easy to analyse this game because Atletico were better in every facet of the game: they fought more, had more quality on the ball, had better organisation, everything.
It’s worth a mention because, if anything, Diego Simeone’s team are more aggressive now, more experienced and hell-bent on more Champions League glory.
Bayern know this too. Xabi Alonso’s verdict is that:
Atlético are a team, always, against whom if you don’t compete to at least 100 per cent they’ll beat you – for sure. This is going to be brutally hard, demanding and only for those who are ultra competitive.
Last season, under Guardiola, the Bavarians turned up here as hot favorites for the tournament but let Saúl slalom his way through about 200 tackles and score a beauty of a goal (Pep went mental at his team for this) and then went out of the tournament on away goals after Griezmann scored in Munich.
Across the two ties Atleti were like a punchbag. They competed ferociously, they had some moments of excellence but they weren’t just pummeled – if this was a boxing match the towel would have been thrown. But they won, they went through.
So: the hoary old subject of ‘revenge’.
Ancelotti won’t think that way. Not his defeat, not his problem.
But Bayern’s players will. Definitely. Which is perhaps a motive to favour them for a score draw or win.
Domestically they are bulldozers and their rivals are papier mâché. Pit the Germans’ record pound-for-pound against Los Rojiblancos and this shouldn’t be a contest.
But it damn well will be. Blood, sweat, tears.
Bayern have won every single match – League, Supercup, Europe, Cup. Eight games, 27 goals scored, one conceded.
By comparison Diego Simeone’ men are simmering, not on the boil like Bayern.
Three draws plus two 1-0 wins have made them look very Griezmann dependent. Too much so.
So, back to the point about ‘revenge’. Bayern are sleek professional winners. They’ll automatically want top spot. With two away wins in their hands already these two teams will be massively favorites to qualify first and second. Thus, this is a big match with regards to topping the group.
The added incentive is that given how many tears were shed in the Bayern dressing room when they went out to Atleti last Spring there’s no way that guys like Neuer, Müller, Vidal, Lahm, Alonso, Thiago, Kimmich, Alaba and Boateng (each of the latter two made big errors) won’t be looking at this as a chance to even the score.
Talking of which. Both teams to score at evens.
Nobody will mock you for staying that 0-0 is a very feasible score but Bayern will play to win and if they take the lead Atleti will throw the kitchen sink at them.
I’d suggest that Thomas Müller, having missed the crucial penalty to put Bayern on easy-street at home in the semi final is an attractive any-time scorer at 11/5. He’ll be desperate.
Saúl or Griezmann are decent bets for Atleti and while Szymon Marciniak the Polish ref doesn’t have a big record for showing yellow or red cards. There’s definitely some bad blood here and I’d be shocked if there weren’t 7 cards or more with a red not out of the question.
Let battle commence.